A few people have asked me if there will be deaths in STASIS. The answer is a very definiate yes!

LUCASARTS games avoideded death in their games, as they felt that it hindered the gamer from exploring the world. Sierra had a different approach….death was fun! I fondly remember saving before certain deaths just so that I could watch them again. Seeing Roger Wilco’s head explode, or face melt off in acid…why, thats just awesome!


In a game like STASIS, where danger lurks at every corner, I think that to not have deaths in the game would be a mistake. And when you have deaths, they should be spectacular! They should be fun, gory, and make you want to re-watch them a few times.

I have a long list of ways to die in the game-a list that includes being ripped apart by active sentry guns, getting freeze dried in liquid nitrogen, melted by heated metal plates, surgical dismemberment, getting crushed by faulty doors, and one of my favorites, having your spine fused together and starving to death because of a faulty injection.


Now with deaths in adventure games, I think that they should be avoidable. I don’t believe in the ‘open the door into a pit of spikes’ approach to death. Just like in reality, if you are aware of your environment you should be able to avoid death. If you cant play through a game without dying, I feel that there is a problem with the design.

But with deaths like this, how can you resist walking infront of that gun…you know…just to see what happens? 😀




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Gemini Rue

Holding the flame for the indie adventure game! The demo of GENIMI RUE has been released, aswell as the game. Head on over HERE to get it!

Azriel Odin, ex-assassin, arrives on the rain-drenched planet of Barracus to find someone.  When things go horribly wrong, he can only seek help from the very criminals he used to work for.

Meanwhile, across the galaxy, a man called Delta-Six wakes up in a hospital with no memory.  Without knowing where to turn or who to trust, he vows to escape before he loses his identity completely.

As fate brings these two men closer together, we discover a world where life is cheap, identities are bought and sold, and a simple quest for redemption can change the fate of a whole galaxy.

The game looks beautiful, and as a MASSIVE Blade Runner fan, Im really digging the sci-fi noir feel. Have a look, download the demo, and if it tickles your fancy, at only $14,99 you cant go wrong!

Well done guys. Its a monumental effort to get an adventure game out! Congratulations!


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Rapid Transport System PART 2

Rapid Transport System…

Powered by ARROW.

The RTS is a tram system which allows easy access to different parts of the Groomlake.

The transport system is designed so that the player can have ‘freeform’ access to many different areas of the ship right from the start of the game. Now while the entire ship wont be accessable at the begining of the game you will have access to ‘mid deck’, which consistis of:


VIP Arrivals (the areas completed so far).


Mid Deck Infirmary (which will be decked out with all sorts of ‘lower use’ medical equipment. Mainly a small hospital for non serious injuries that civilians or other visitors may have when visiting The Groomlake)


Mid Deck Mess Hall (consisting of kitchens, prep areas, food, and possibly some forms of entertainment).


Mid Deck Information Centre (a museum of sorts where dignitaries can learn about The Groomlake).


And PLAZA A, PLAZA B, and PLAZA C-which have elevators and security checks to proceed to different areas of the ship.


Its important to note that the areas listed are just stations…so each station will have branches off to quite a few rooms, and may have other transport options available once in those areas. The RTS is sort of the major hub that connects things, with many minor options available to the player to get around.  The tansport system platforms are essentially gateways to different pieces of the ship.


Access to the multiple areas of the ship really opens up the puzzle design. Items in the infirmary can be used to solve puzzles in the mess hall. There is a main single objective for the ‘mid level’, in this case, getting SECURITY LEVEL FOUR access to get to the control deck-but this isnt a ‘find the yellow key card’ type of game! 😀 All areas will have puzzles to solve, and areas to explore, that will not only open up the story, but also provide some awesome gamaplay opportunities.

When designing the map system, I took inspiration from subway maps of the major undergound subway ststems in the world. The system needs to look realistic. Like a subway system that could actually work.

Its also interesting to note that the map is set up using the ‘stacked glass’ system I mentioned in THIS previous post.


I have fully completed all the puzzle and game integration that leads us from the INNER AIRLOCK to the RTS PLATFORM. However, on a playthrough I’ve realised that the critical path is a little to direct. There arent enough obstacles in the captains way, so Im having a relook at a few elements in the levels. One additional area I am adding in between the Arrivals Hall and the Decon/Security Room is a ‘last stand.’ An area where a few crew members tried to make a final stand against…something. Welded doors, stacked boxes, mobile sentry guns…very ALIENS. Im taking a good look at properly integrating this into the current game, as its important that this doesnt feel ‘tacked on’. Im hoping this can be done with just some dialog links in the previous scenes, but may have to add some objects here and there, to really sell the idea.

On a side note, I really want to thank you guys for checking up on this project! It really is a labor of love on my part, and knowing that there are people out there following the progress really helps me push forward!


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Rapid Transport System

The Groomlakes RTS is a series of trams that link areas of the several kilometer long space ship together.
Throughout the chapters, Maracheck will be able to explore the ship in any way he wants, using the RTS.

Certain areas will not be available immediately, either requiring security clearance, or some other way of bypassing it.

This is a Work In Progress shot of a standard boarding platform. The map on the right will show all the terminals that this specific tram can travel to. A ‘YOU ARE HERE’ board.

The location board will be the way you navigate around the ship. Look at the board, pick an area to go to, and the RTS will take you to the nearest platform. The distances will be time related, so pick a station far from you, and it will take some time to get there.

Comments always welcome. 😉


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The problems with Multiple Solutions

There has been quite a few discussions on various adventure game forums about multiple solves to puzzles. Now while I can see the appeal from a gamers point of view, from a design standpoint they are almost impossible to effectively implement.
Now, these are really only issues I have discovered when designing my own game. Some of the things you may disagree with, and even find some ways around. If you have solutions to these issues, please let me know!
The big issue with having multiple puzzle options for inventory puzzles is that you end up with useless inventory items.
Lets say that the obstacle to pass is a door. One solution involves picking the lock using a metal toothpick. Another solve is finding an axe and simply bashing through the door. the final solve is to use a blowtorch to cut off the hinges. Now each of these puzzles, on their own, are pretty simple to impliment from a design point of view. HOWEVER, each one requires a different item. A toothpick, an axe, and a blowtorch. Lets say that in the game, I pick up the blowtorch, and the axe, but skip over the toothpick. Now that is cool-but what happens later on in the game when I have a seemingly important inventory item-but no place to use it. Now having a few ‘red herring’ items in the game is fine-but having more than half your inventory being full of items that were actually used for other puzzles can become a logistical nightmare for the player to navigate through!
Now thats assuming that the 3 objects to bypass the door are relatively easy to come by. Lets assume tho, that each item needs some form of interaction to aquire it.
1. The toothpick requires you to sprinkle bits of wood shavings in an old mans food, so he requests a toothpick. You then have to distract him with a woopie cusion made from a latex glove stolen from a doctor.
2. The axe is actually a broken piece of s STOP SIGN, fastened to a baseball bat, which was used to break the stop sign in the first place.
3. The blowtorch is created by stealing money from the old man, to go and buy a can of deodorant. the deodorant is then strapped to a lighter, which was found by stealing a packet of cigarettes from a waitress.
So now, in these multiple solves to get past a door, we have a really wide variety of ways to get there. Now the problem, design wise, is how do you let the player know his/her critical path? Lets say you can sprinkle wood shavings on the old dudes food, but you already have the baseball bat and stop sign. How does the player know that the wood shavings in the guys food dont do any good. Or even worse, you go through all the trouble to get the toothpick, axe, and blowtorch-yet only one is usefull. So all of those other items, and all the effort needed to get them has gone to waste.
The solution to get past these issues seems to be, create less involved puzzles. But adventure gamers dont WANT less involved puzzles. My favorite puzzles are ones that require an entire string of events to get through-with each event being its own puzzle, unfolding eventually into something grander. Puzzles that build up on themselves. So the choice really comes down to this…having complex, linear puzzles, or having puzzles are are simplified down to avoid conflicting issues down the road.
Another big issue with multiple solves is that, if you want to have awesome and interesting puzzles in a game, you suddenly have to have 3 or 4 times the amount. Lets say that I come up with this really clever way to get hack into a computer system. The puzzle is involved, requiring the use of inventory items, different dialog trees, and ‘myst’ style interaction of the actual computer. Now the result of hacking into the computer is that a safe is open.
In order to have multiple solves, I need to have another 1 or 2 equally incredible puzzle ‘paths’ for the player to choose from-else I am forcing the player to play through a less interesting part of the game because they did not choose the correct path. Now its really difficult to come up with 1 puzzle that is engaging, logical, and will keep the player completely involved in the game world-let alone having to create, do the graphics for, and code 3 of them.
Now of course, replayablility is always an option-but that almost feels like cheating the player out of that initial experience.
Now, this post isnt about just letting people know WHY I dont think that multiple solves do not work, but is also to offer a solution of some kind. Kind of.
See, I dont think that players actually want multiple solutions to puzzles in adventure games…what they want is the feeling of freedom that multiple solves would give them. Adventure gamers want the freedom of an RPG, with the SPECIFIC interactivity of an Adventure Game. The best way to provide a player with that, without resorting to a spider web of issues is to give the ILLUSION of freedom.
Having the player skip certain sections, or get ‘stuck’ in an area of the game because of a choice they made is one such way. If I look at the world of STASIS, there really are a multitiude of ways to do this. Having the player bypass a security check point, by instead crawling though a roof conduit is a way. The result is the same…to get to the other side. Having the multiple solutions be ACTION BASED instead of INVENTORY BASED takes out the issues that arrive from having multiple inventory puzzles. Now does this cheat the gamer out of a part of the game? Yes. However, if this is done sporadically, and the parts of the game that are skipped are not ‘essential’ to the game, having these little moments can add to the ILLUSION OF FREEDOM. Is this the IDEAL solution? Definitely not…but its the best one I have!
If you guys have any other ideas on how to get past these issues, please give me a shout. Ive realised that creating a game really is an organic process-so if I get any really cool suggestions, they WILL be stolen, and put in STASIS. 😉

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ARTICLE: A truly graphic adventure

A really interesting article on Adventure Games.

Space QuestDay of the TentacleGabriel KnightMonkey Island. To gamers of a certain age, the mere names evoke an entire world of gaming, now largely lost.

Graphic adventure games struggle to find success in today’s market, but once upon a time they topped sales charts year after year. The genre shot to the top of computer gaming in the latter half of the 1980s, then suffered an equally precipitous fall a decade later. It shaped the fate of the largest companies in the gaming industry even as the games’ crude color graphics served as the background for millions of childhood memories. It gave us Roger Wilco, Sam & Max, and the world of Myst. But few gamers today know the complete history of the genre, or how the classic Sierra and LucasArts titles of the late 1980s and early 1990s largely disappeared beneath the assault of first-person shooters.

Here’s how we got from King’s Quest to The Longest Journey and why it matters—and getting to the end of this particular story won’t require the use of a text parser, demand that you combine two inscrutable inventory objects to solve a demented puzzle, or send you pixel-hunting across the screen.”

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Keep it Simple, Stupid!

The main idea behind the XRay goggles was to have an element that could be repeated over multiple puzzles. I really want to give he character a ‘tool box’ that he can use certain items multiple times. It just makes sense, that he would go over to the ship prepared…or as prepared as he can be!
Ill admit, the XRay goggles, while a cool idea on paper, have been an absolute nightmare to impliment. Each object in the scene essentially had to have a value linked to the XRay system, which would turn it on or off depending on if the XRay system was implimented or not. That means that every button, switch, animation, or element of the puzzle needed specific implimentation of the XRay system.
Then, from a gameplay point of view, the XRay system would have to be able to XRay every puzzle in the game-unless I thought of some hokey reason why certain things could be XRayed and others couldnt. Its a sci-fi game, so radio-active areas, non-x-rayable materials, and lead lined computers ARENT out of the question, but that really seemed like quite a bit of effort to come up with a system that LIMITS the player.
Having it as a set tool in the game just created more problems than it solved. Now, Ill admit that it was incredibly cool to XRay items, and the fading to see the circuits and stuff was pretty damned awesome…but it really just slowed down the game creation process way to much-and just got to complex to be able to impliment on the larger scale I’d imagined.
SO! I came up with a decent, equally cool, and easier to do ‘schematic’ system. The idea of the XRay goggles was to give an extra layer to the puzzle solving…to be able to see inside a device, see how it worked, and then use that knowledge to use the device. Instead of seeing through the objects, I thought it would be cool to have some sort of HUD overlay displayed over the object in question.
I did a few tests, and came up with something which I think works well, and is a pretty cool gameplay element. Essentially, your system comes preloaded with numerous schematics from a few companies. Using the HUD, you choose the company that made the object (be it a security system, weapon, camera, surgical computer, or even a subsystem like a mother board, or specific microchip), then browse through a series of schematics until you find the correct one.
Finding out the name of the corporation responsible for the tech you are trying to bypass, aswell as the name of the system is part of the puzzle. It could be written on the side of the device, in a maintenance log, or on a scrap of paper.
For the design of the HUD, I went with a VERY retro feel. Marachecks technology is old, but reliable…thats why he uses it.
Later in the game, there may be certain upgrades that you find for the goggles, or you may have to download different schematics for the more ‘proprietry’ hardware on the Groomlake.
As a game design lesson, this entire ‘fiasco’ has made me realise that getting stuck on one small element really can cause an indie production to grind to a halt. Not having someone there to say “Listen-this just isnt working” is a definate hinderence! But now that this particular hurdle has been crossed, I can focus more on the puzzles and the design, and less on the technical aspects of getting something ‘cool’ to work properly!

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